Reducing Risk Factors and Preventing Dementia
Is there anything you can do to reduce the chance of getting dementia?
Research shows that 30-50% of the risk of dementia is related to things that people might be able to change. This suggests there could be many ways to lower the risks of developing dementia. Here we outline some of the important risk factors for dementia and ideas for reducing your dementia risk.
Dementia and Life Experiences
Research has shown that lower levels of education are linked to an increased risk of dementia. BUT, this refers to learning generally, not just the education someone might get from going to school. So continuing to learn and keep your brain active can reduce the risk of dementia. In remote Aboriginal communities, people who had never been to school were more likely to be diagnosed with dementia . In urban and regional Aboriginal communities, where most people had attended school, people who had completed more years of schooling were less likely to have cognitive decline and people who worked in skilled jobs had a lower risk of dementia.
Stress and Trauma
Research has shown that people who experience trauma in their earlier lives can be at higher risk of developing dementia later in life. So building safe communities can also reduce dementia risk for our mob. And remember that just because someone experiences trauma doesn’t mean they will get dementia. In fact, there is some research that shows resilience and surviving trauma can help keep your mind, body and spirit strong.
Head Injuries and concussions
Research tells us that there is a strong link between head injury and the development of dementia. So keep your mob safe- if you’re riding horses or bikes, driving cars or doing things that put you at risk of head injury, be safe! Wearing seatbelts or helmets are examples of being safe.
Connection to Community and Culture
Research tells us that people who are isolated and who don’t have strong connections with others may have higher risk of dementia. So staying connected with others can reduce your risk. If you’ve lost interest in being with friends or family, or in doing things that used to make you happy, this might be a sign of depression.
Dementia Prevention and Health decisions
The idea of you or a loved one developing dementia is scary. However, the good news is that there are things you can do to try help reduce your risk of dementia, no matter what your age. Although there are some factors, like our genetics, which we can’t alter, there are ways we can change our behaviour to keep our body and mind healthy. Here are just some of the things we can do to try and reduce our chances of getting dementia:
Exercise and Physical Activities
- Exercising helps us keep our bodies healthy, and can help with weight and blood pressure problems. So going out on country, fishing, hunting and dancing are all examples of exercise that can help keep our bodies healthy.
- People who don’t do much exercise, who are obese, who have high blood pressure, or who have diabetes, have a higher risk of developing dementia when they are older.
- The Australian Government suggests how much exercise all of us should aim for. If you are aged 18 – 64 years, you should try and exercise at a moderate difficulty level for at least 2½ hours per week. If you are 65 years or older, try to be active for 30 minutes every day.
Examples of exercise programs:
- NSW - I-Fit Aboriginal Group Fitness Program
- NSW - One Deadly Step
- NSW - Lyrebird Exercise Groups Tharawal
- WA - The Bindjareb Yorgas Health Program
- VIC - Soul Sistas Living Strong Program
- QLD - Deadly Choices Indigenous Senior Games
- QLD - Indigenous Healthy Lifestyle Program
Keeping Your Mind Active
At any age, it is good to try and keep your mind active keep up the activities you enjoy doing for example painting, baking damper and basket weaving.
Stopping smoking can be a real challenge, especially if you have been smoking for many years. However, quitting smoking has many health benefits, and can also reduce your risk of developing dementia. If you are a smoker, your smoking is not only affecting your health and risk of dementia, but also the health of your family and friends. There is help out there if you would like to quit, or would like more information about quitting. Visit Aboriginal Quitline and follow the link for your state.
Examples of resources:
Reducing your chance of head injury
If you try and stay safe on the roads as a driver and a passenger (including wearing a seatbelt and making sure your car is roadworthy), you will reduce the chance of being seriously injured. This is important even on quiet country roads. Having a head injury is another factor that can increase your risk of developing dementia. There are some things you can do to try and prevent getting a head injury. Being involved in a car accident puts you at risk for head injury. If you are not as steady on your feet you may be at risk of falling, which could lead to a head injury. There are a range of things that you can easily do to help prevent the risk of falling, which can be found on the My Aged Care website.
Domestic violence can also lead to head injury. If you are in a domestic violence situation, there is help available, including an Aboriginal Family Domestic Violence Hotline. More information can be found at White Ribbon Australia.
Further information can be found in the following:
Drugs and Alcohol
Alcohol and drugs in our communities affects us all and can make it harder to grow up our kids strong and well.
Alcohol related dementia can be prevented by limiting the amount you drink and staying away from drugs. Alcohol related dementia is related to extreme levels of drinking and can impact someone at any age. An unsafe amount of Alcohol and drugs can have a health, social and emotional impact.
Some factsheets on alcohol and other drugs :
Managing Stress and Wellbeing
We can’t always control what life throws at us but even when we are faced with stressful situations there are things that we can do to control the stress level and maintain wellbeing. Sometimes things can get too hard to manage on our own but there are professional help out there.
Examples of resources: